Keeping It Reel

Some of Our Favorite Summer Movies for Kids

It seems we’ve all got our favorites when it comes to summer movies for kids and kids at heart, whether we’re watching a DVD at home, streaming a classic or heading down to the local movie theater or free public screening at a city park.
Ruth Chiego, manager of the children’s department at the Central Library of the San Antonio Public Library System, and her 4-year-old son Tad like “How to Train Your Dragon,” a 2010 animated film they can borrow from the library’s DVD collection.

“It’s such a sweet movie about the relationship the boy has with his dragon, and it’s hilarious, so it’s also great for adults,” she says.

Angela Martinez, owner of San Antonio’s Slab Cinema, and her kids like watching “Toy Story” (1995) and its sequels. Her 9-year-old daughter Felice likes Walt Disney’s “Frozen,” released in late 2013, for its “sing-along songs,” Martinez says. Her 11-year-old son Wiley loves the funny plot of “Nacho Libre,” a 2006 Paramount Pictures comedy about a monk who moonlights as a Mexican wrestler. Martinez’s favorite is the animated movie “Ice Age,” a 2002 20th Century Fox release. “This has a lot of humor for adults and children,” she says.

Los Angeles filmmakers Henry Saine and Jason Dodson of Just Chorizo Productions say they watched hundreds of kids’ movies while growing up in San Antonio. Now in their 30s, they say they still like to invite friends to watch old favorites.
Dodson likes “The Goonies,” a 1985 Amblin Entertainment live-action film.
“It’s every kid’s dream to find a treasure map and go on an adventure,” says Dodson, a graduate of San Antonio’s Holmes High School. “It’s wish fulfillment for every kid’s fantasy.”

Saine, a MacArthur High School graduate, says 1987’s “Princess Bride” remains one of his favorites.
“It’s an old-fashioned adventure – action, magic, romance, hijinks – all told to a kid who’s reluctant to listen to what us old people think is a great kid’s story, all while teaching kids that good will triumphs and to follow your heart,” says Saine.
Chris Prichard, director of operations technology at Santikos Theatre in San Antonio, is another kid at heart when it comes to G-rated films. Even though Prichard’s kids are now in high school and college, “we still enjoy the family films. We still have a soft spot for animation,” he says. One of his favorites is “The Lion King.” The 1994 Walt Disney coming-of-age animated movie about a lion cub in the wilds of Africa involves a tale of overcoming adversity that appeals to kids and adults, he says.

Reel Bargains
Many San Antonio area movie theaters offer free or reduced-priced family movie screenings each summer, and you can also take the family to outdoor venues.  Santikos, for example, will offer free summer movies at 10 a.m. each Tuesday and Wednesday in June and July. Popular family-friendly movies will include “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Despicable Me 2” in June and “The Croods” and “Epic” in July.  Visit for dates and theater locations.

Martinez of Slab Cinema, which rents outdoor screening equipment, says her company is providing the screens for Movies by Moonlight, a series of family films that will be shown free at downtown San Antonio’s Travis Park this summer. Among the movies on tap are “Frozen” and “Finding Nemo” in June, and “Toy Story 2” and “Cars 2” in July. Visit for dates and locations of other free outdoor screenings.
In no particular order, here are plot snapshots of a few favorites based on interviews and industry websites.

“How to Train Your Dragon,” based on the books by Cressida Cowell, is a 2010 animated 3-D film about a teenage boy from a Viking village who must capture, but instead befriends, a dragon to impress the village and his dad.

“The Goonies” is a 1985 live-action film about suburban kids finding a treasure map in the attic that leads them to a pirate ship. Its cast and crew feature familiar names, including director Richard Donner (“Lethal Weapon”) and writing credits for Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus. You also get to see actors like Josh Brolin (“No Country for Old Men”) and Sean Astin (“The Lord of the Rings” series) when they were kids.

“The Lion King,” Disney’s 1994 animated film starring a lion cub who grows up to be king, won two Academy Awards for music and the Golden Globe Award for best musical or comedy motion picture.

“The Princess Bride” from 1987 won critics’ accolades for a witty script by William Goldman, who had already won two Academy Awards for screenwriting for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men.” The live-action movie about a stable boy who tries to rescue a damsel from an evil prince was directed by Rob Reiner (“When Harry Met Sally,” “Stand By Me,” “The Bucket List”).

Toy.Story.1.1995“Toy Story” (1995) and “Toy Story 2” (1999) feature the voice of Tom Hanks as the toy cowboy Woody and voice of Tim Allen as toy astronaut Buzz Lightyear. Among the writers on the original animated film is Joss Whedon, who went on to write and direct the 2012 hit movie “Avengers.”

“Frozen,” an animated Disney film with two princesses, a reindeer, snowman and trolls, was released in late 2013 and won the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for best-animated feature film of the year. The film won another Academy Award for best song.

“Ice Age,” released in 2002, is an Academy Award-nominated animated movie about animals scrambling for survival during the Ice Age. Director Chris Wedge was responsible for another popular family film, “Epic,” in 2013.

nemo“Finding Nemo,” the 2003 Disney/Pixar animated movie starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks, won the Academy Award for best-animated feature and became one of the industry’s top money-makers for G-rated movies in theaters and on DVD.

Reel Classics
Older classic children’s films still top some lists of favorites. The American Film Institute ranks Disney’s animated “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) at No. 1 on its list of greatest animated films. “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) tops its list of greatest fantasy films.

Renee Haines is a San Antonio-based freelance writer.